Commuters using trains in London
The plans could have major implications for other rail franchises IBTimes UK

First Class travel could soon be a thing of the past for some London commuter trains in a bid to tackle major delays and overcrowding.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced the reforms as part of the government's next franchise blueprint for one of Britain's worst performing rail services, Southeastern.

"Services on the Southeastern rail network have been unacceptably poor for far too long," Grayling said.

"Passengers have endured disruption, overcrowding and delays, particularly during redevelopment work at London Bridge, and they deserve better.

"Appointing a new franchise operator from 2018 provides us with a great opportunity to sort out the problems that have plagued Southeastern, and deliver the high quality of service that customers expect."

The series of measures includes:

  • Considering removing First Class to make more room for passengers, which would be "important" during peak hours.
  • New Metro-style carriages with fewer seats to create more space to meet growing passenger numbers.
  • Running existing trains faster and more often, which could "hold down fares".
  • An automated system for passengers to claim compensation when they suffer delays of more than 15 minutes.
  • Smarter payment systems including by mobile phone.
  • Possible new routes including a "London orbital service" connecting Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill and Reading, to take pressure away from the M20.
  • Extending Metro trains to 12 carriages.
  • Reducing the number of central London stations served from certain locations at particular times, for example all Metro services on the north Kent, Greenwich and Bexleyheath Lines would only terminate at Cannon Street.
  • Operating high-speed services between St Pancras, Hastings, Bexhill and Rye via Ashford International.

The new plans are for the first major franchise to become available since the transport secretary outlined a new vision for the national rail network back in December 2016.

The planning documents state: "We recognise that First Class tickets remain popular on certain routes, notably on the Southeastern Main Line to Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

"However, removing it would create more room for passengers, which would be important during peak hours."